01/13/2014 04:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Dream of Maribarbola

As you know, I am your loyal painter and arts blogger. But perhaps you didn't know that I have also been working on a historical fantasy novel these many years, Railroad to Zanzibar. I have started e-publishing novella-sized pieces of volume I on Amazon -- the first two parts are linked at the bottoms of my posts.

In volume II of Railroad to Zanzibar, the heroine, Claire, has a sidekick, Maribarbola. Below is an excerpt in which Maribarbola tells Claire a dream. It is paired here with a splendid drawing by Lauren Levato Coyne, reproduced with permission.


Maribarbola said, "Claire, my Claire, I had the strangest dream of you."

Claire said, "O Maribarbola, what was it you dreamt?"

Maribarbola said, "I'll tell you. In my dream, there was a great stag, with proud antlers of many points, and upon each point there was a little dish, so that each point held a fine wax candle, and each candle bore a little flame. And these flames never ate up their candles, nor were they extinguished -- not in the morning, when the wind gusted in from the waters, nor in the evening, when the wind gusted back out to the waters, nor at midnight, when this stag slept, and his candles cast a warm and cheery light upon his unwrinkled brow.

"Now you, my Claire, were in the forest, and saw this stag, and you thought that you might like to have one of his little candles, so as to light your way in the dark. And you sat in your secret place, and watched the stag, and thought about the best way to get a candle from the stag."

Claire said, "O Maribarbola, what did I do next?"

Maribarbola said, "Claire, my Claire, it was the strangest thing, for it seemed to me as if the dream split in two, like an antler splits, so that each arm of my dream happened at the same time. In one arm of my dream, you took on your guise of the huntress. You fetched you your bow and arrows, that you had in the dream. And you shot that great stag right in the side of his throat, a fine shot. But as the stag sank to his knees so piteously, his candles flickered. When he died, they all went out, so that you inherited smoke only from him in his fineness, and could not light again his candles.

"But in the other arm of my antlered dream, you took on your guise of the companion, that the Florentines call friendship, and the Genovans call seduction. You followed along beside this stag all the days of his life. When he clashed with the other stags, waving his little flames all round, you were right there cheering him on. When he took him a doe, and that doe lay alongside him at midnight, so you too lay alongside him. When he sired the fawns, and those fawns was frolicking, so you too frolicked. But when the doe come round to nuzzle them fawns and look after them, you too nuzzled the fawns and looked after them. When his fawns grew up and went off to make their way in the forest, and he lay down on the soft grasses on the hill, in the fullness of his seasons, and his doe with her grey muzzle lay there weeping for him, you lay there weeping for him too.

"But this great stag, full of his seasons and wisdom, says, 'Hush my wife, and hush you too, my Claire, for this is the way of it. Summon me my sons, to visit with me before I go out from underneath the sun.' And his doe howled for her sons, and you blowed on your horn, my Claire, and they came, the sons came back to their dying father and their weeping mother. And the stag says, 'My sons, take from me my left antler.' And the sons took the left antler and said, 'Great father, what are we to do with this here left antler?' And in his seasons and wisdom, he says, 'There is a point upon my antler that correspond to the each of you. Therefore do each of you take one point of my antler for his own, and grow you up your antlers, so that your way will be light in the dawn, and in the dusk, and even unto midnight.' And the sons divided up the antler amongst themselves, and each one took one point with one uneaten candle, and set it on his crown. Then they galloped off, each one in his own direction, for this is the practice of sons.

"Then the stag turned to his women, that was you and his doe, and he said, 'My wife, I cannot give to you my right antler, for does do not wear antlers, and it would not sit right on you. But to you, my Claire, I give my right antler for inheritance. Though you are a woman, there has ever been something mannish about you as well. Take you now my antler, and light your way in the dark.'

"Therefore you took his right antler, Claire, my Claire, and the candles did not gutter, nor did they die. You went down from the hill with your prize, that you so long worked for, nor stayed with the great stag with his naked brow, and his doe with her grey muzzle, nor mourned the mourning. But they forgave you, for they knew you were a wild animal, untamable. And you walked in the dark land, and the little flames still burning on the right antler lit your way.

"This were the whole of my dream, Claire, nor do I know the meaning of it."

Maribarbola had got well enwrapped in recollection of her dream, and coming round again to the sensible world, she was surprised to find that Claire was crying. She did her best to comfort the strange patricia. But all the while, she was thinking that this Claire was very like a little girl, and found some way, at least once before sundown, to weep over a silly thing, or a thing that mattered not.


Lauren Levato Coyne, Self Portrait as Prophet, 2012, colored pencil and graphite on bristol, 19″x17″

(c) Daniel Maidman 2014
drawing (c) Lauren Levato Coyne 2012